FOURTH SECTION

FINAL DECISION

Application no. 75998/01 
by Karl GUEST 
against the United Kingdom

The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting on 8 June 2006 as a Chamber composed of:

Mr J. Casadevall, President
 Sir Nicolas Bratza
 Mr G. Bonello
 Mr M. Pellonpää
 Mr K. Traja
 Mr S. Pavlovschi, 
 Mr J. Šikuta, judges
and Mr T.L. Early, Section Registrar,

Having regard to the above application lodged on 16 August 2001,

Having regard to the partial decision taken on 15 October 2002,

Having regard to the formal declarations accepting a friendly settlement of the case.

Having deliberated, decides as follows:

THE FACTS

The applicant, Mr Karl Guest, is a British national who was born in 1963. He is represented before the Court by Mr Alun Pugh, a local government welfare rights officer practising in Blackpool.

A.  The circumstances of the case

The applicant’s wife died on 24 June 2000. There was one child of the marriage, born in 1998.

He applied to the Benefits Agency for the payment of social security benefits equivalent to those to which a widow, whose husband had died in similar circumstances to those of his wife, would have been entitled under the Social Security and Benefits Act 1992 (“the 1992 Act”). On 2 August 2001, he was informed by the local social security office that his claim was rejected because the regulations governing the payment of widows’ benefits were specific to women. He was also informed that he was not entitled to bereavement payment as his wife had died before 9 April 2001 and that, prior to that date, the benefit did not exist.

B.  Relevant domestic law

The domestic law relevant to this application is set out in Willis v. the United Kingdom, no. 36042/97, §§ 14-26, ECHR 2002-IV.

COMPLAINT

The applicant complains that British social security and tax legislation discriminated against him on grounds of sex, in breach of Article 14 of the Convention, taken in conjunction with both Article 8 of the Convention and Article 1 of Protocol No. 1.

THE LAW

By a letter of 11 May 2005 the respondent Government informed the Court that the House of Lords had decided, in relation to the claims for Widowed Mother’s Allowance (WMA) and Widow’s Payment (WPt), that there was in principle no objective justification at the relevant time for not paying these benefits to widowers as well as widows, but that the Government had a defence under section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998 (the HRA). It noted that, in view of this, the multitude of cases before the Court and the fact that the HRA defence is only applicable in the domestic arena, the Government were prepared, in principle, to settle all claims made by widowers against the United Kingdom arising out of the arrangements applicable prior to April 2001 for the payment of WMA and WPt.

On 3 March 2006 the Government informed the Court that an offer of settlement would be sent to the applicant shortly.

The applicant’s representative informed the Court on 3 April 2006 that the applicant had received and accepted an offer from the respondent Government to pay him GBP 1,944.80 in settlement of his claims for widow’s benefits.

The Court takes note of the agreement reached between the parties (Article 39 of the Convention). It is satisfied that the settlement is based on respect for human rights as defined in the Convention or its Protocols (Article 37 § 1 in fine of the Convention and Rule 62 § 3 of the Rules of Court).

For these reasons, the Court unanimously

Decides to strike the application out of its list of cases.

T.L. Early Josep Casadevall 
 Registrar President

GUEST v. THE UNITED KINGDOMDECISION


GUEST v. THE UNITED KINGDOM